At South Charlotte Dentistry, our top priority is keeping our patients and their loved ones safe, healthy, and informed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have had to postpone or cancel your child’s dental appointments. Based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), American Dental Association (ADA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as guidance from local and NC state governments, we have been limiting pediatric dental appointments to emergency procedures and urgent visits. As we begin accepting our patients back into the office, we want to ensure that you feel informed and safe about your children’s oral healthcare, but also that you know how to talk to your child about an upcoming appointment.
Going to the dentist can already be scary for a child, and visiting the dentist during the COVID-19 outbreak means that a dentist visit will almost certainly be different than what your child’s experienced before.
A New Look at the Dentist to Keep Everyone Safe and Healthy
- Tell kids what to expect and why. You might say to an older child, “Your dentists and hygienists will be wearing their masks today, just like we wear masks at a grocery store. They also might have on more protective equipment like face shields, gowns, or goggles. You might think they look a little silly or maybe scary, but it’s a new thing they’re doing to stop germs.”
- Focus on the positive, and not on the bad things a virus can do. This might sound like, “Because of the virus going around, we’re all doing extra things to stop it from spreading. We get to help by wearing a mask when we walk into your appointment!”
- Let your kid show what they can do. You may invite your child to prompt you how are capable of stopping the spread of germs, by asking, “Can you show me how you put on and take off your mask? Great job!”
- Practice forehead temperature checks with your child, and offer rewards or encouragement for cooperation. Your visit may require a temperature check before entering.
- Make sure your child understands what will be the same and different about the dentist visit. This sounds like, “When we go to the dentist tomorrow, we won’t get to play in the waiting room this time. Everyone there will be wearing a mask, and we’ll get to wear masks inside too. You’ll get to show your hygienist how good your teeth look and how you’ve been flossing! Dr. Wells will be there too. He’ll be wearing a mask and face shield. You’ll still get to choose a sticker when you’re done getting your teeth cleaned!”
Talking with your child about PPE
How kids react to seeing or wearing a mask may depend on their age; older kids may not react at all, whereas toddlers and young kids may feel cautious and unsure. Young children rely on faces to read signals and feel safe; when a child sees a smile or familiar face, it can put them at ease. Masks can hide those important signals. Here are our tips for talking to your child about masks:
- If your child hasn’t witnessed mask-wearing at home or in public, you may want to set aside a time and safe place for them to look, watch, react, and be comforted by a parent. A child feeling upset or afraid may just need the security of a parent’s lap and a soothing “It’s ok” to calm them.
- Give kids time to practice wearing their masks before they may need to wear one outside of the home. Practice putting them on, spending a few minutes walking around, playing in a mask, and properly storing or disposing of the mask.
- Encourage kids to decorate their masks or choose a pattern for their masks. This gives kids a feeling of control over the situation, and a personal touch may make them more encouraged to want to wear their masks.
- Create no-sew masks together. Older kids may enjoy creating a mask, and you can create them with materials you probably already have around the house!
- Make wearing a mask fun! Younger kids react positively when a situation involves a sense of play. Encourage your child to wear their mask and pretend to be a doctor, nurse, or dentist! Have them put a mask on a stuffed animal, and then ask follow-up questions to the child on why the animal is wearing a mask. You’ll be able to clear up confusion and assess any anxieties your child might have about wearing a mask through this type of role-play.
Keep having those open, honest, and factual conversations with your children about COVID-19.
The CDC has great resources on how to talk to children about COVID-19, with age-appropriate tips on what to focus on and what facts to share with your child. We’re committed to the health and safety of our patients at South Charlotte Dentistry, and we encourage you to give us a call anytime. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about our safety protocols or what to expect at your child’s appointment.